In Louisville, Kentucky, this week the Grace Lutheran Church opened its doors for the vacation Bible school. Out in front of the church had been placed a sign which read “All Children Welcome.” The church has been in existence for 66 years as an all-white institution, and it had no apprehension that the sign would be taken literally by non-white children, but that is what happened. Eleven Negro children showed up unexpectedly, and in about half a minute a 66-year tradition had been broken. For the minister, the Rev. Henry Kleckley, and the school director, Mrs. P. E. Davis, decided immediately to take the Negro children into the classes. The church governing body moved to support the decision, and thus this Lutheran Church is believed to be the first all-white church in the Louisville area to adopt integrated vacation Bible classes, and the first of its denomination south of the Mason-Dixon line. Believers in democracy and in Christianity applied cannot but applaud this episode, and hope that there may be more like it – soon.
Some time ago there appeared in the local daily newspaper two sets of 10 Commandments: one for parents, another for children. Since this reporter is more of a parent now than he is a child, he has taken the set for parents more seriously and wishes to pass them on to you, in modern day version. They were prepared by Rabbi and Mrs. William M. Kramer of California, and read as follows:
- You shall strive to banish fear and anxiety from your gates and invite love and security within your portals.
- You shall see your child as a personality to be released, not as a possession to be retained, praising his accomplishments, judging them according to his youth and gifts.
- You shall honor and cherish your mate so that love permeates the household and adorns its inhabitants.
- You shall train your child to respect himself, but in so doing not feel rejected by you.
- You shall not be cowardly or overly-indulgent lest your child knows not the bounds of decency and good behavior.
- When you are vexed with the ways of childhood remember, then, the days of your youth.
- You shall help your child love beauty, uphold truth, walk in friendship, and serve his nation.
- You shall make your home your child’s home wherein his friends are welcome guests.
- You shall not exploit, nor compete with your child for gain or for pride or for any selfish end, nor visit upon him your parent’s shortcomings towards you.
- You shall teach your children diligently your faith, to observe its commandments and attend its worship, prepare him for marriage, and the doing of good deeds.
It is entirely possible, even probable, that not everyone will subscribe to all of these, but it is also unlikely that many will disagree with very much. Parenthood is essentially a responsibility vested in parents, a responsibility which they cannot escape, to provide the best possible environment so that their children may develop in wisdom and stature to the utmost of their physical, mental, and moral capacities. For parents, both of them, to do anything less, is to shirk their responsibilities and to stunt the full development of young lives entrusted together to their care. Parents who put their own narrow and personal desires ahead of the welfare of their children are likewise not living up to their most important obligations.
Perhaps many of you can recall that about two years ago there was much publicity about the so-called Reese Committee study of the foundations – Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, and others of the large philanthropic funds set aside for particular purposes. Particularly did the Ford Foundation come under fire of the committee mainly because it was making objective and impartial investigations and reports in areas and in a manner that aroused the ire of vested interests with whom members of the committee were very much in sympathy. The Fund for the Republic, a branch of the Ford Foundation, particularly, came under committee attack because it was sponsoring studies in the field of human rights and the American tradition.
An undertaking of the fund initiated within the past year has been little publicized, but is one which potentially could be very productive, and in its nature, is designed to articulate and make more widely understood basic elements of the American scheme of things. It is entitled “The American Traditions Project,” intended to discover and dramatize incidents from daily life, particularly those which might never reach the headlines, in which courage and good sense of Americans had been demonstrating in action our traditions of freedom and justice.
A series of awards was offered for letters reporting true stories of individuals or groups who had successfully defended the rights to think and read freely, and who had applied the principles of the Bill of Rights in concrete human situations against the dictates of expediency. These letters were submitted to a panel of distinguished judges who selected those most worthy of award. The first prize was awarded last year to Mr. John B. Orr, Jr., a native Southerner of Florida, who, as a representative in the Florida state legislature, was the only one who stood up and voted against legislation designed to control school segregation in his state in spite of the Supreme Court decision. This was not only risking a political career, but was undertaking an extreme hazard to his own personal safety. He believed segregation was morally wrong, no matter how long it had existed. So he voted, one in 90 members, against what he believed to be evil. He was running for re-election even as he cast his vote, and while his vote was contrary to the personal statements of virtually all his constituents, the election was a great tribute to him and the good common sense of the voters, for while there were the usual threats, abuse, anonymous telephone calls, he was re-elected because enough of the people in his district admired and respected his courage and integrity.
The second award, while not having the drama of legislative debate on a public issue, reaches deeply into the American tradition that prevails among the masses of the American people. Two women were waitresses in a bus depot in Akron, Ohio. A stranger, an unknown man, had come into the bus depot after attending a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. He fell asleep there. Some local police came in, awakened, abused, struck, handcuffed him and finally arrested him for loitering, and took him to jail. This man was a recent refugee from communist Poland and had suffered many years in Nazi concentration camps, but the ladies did not know about that. They saw only a stranger who was threatened unjustly. After the man was taken away they drove out to the man’s home in an adjoining town. They spoke to his landlady, to the police, and even went to see the mayor of the town. When they went to court, though their employer had broadly intimated they should not voluntarily testify, they did so in the man’s defense, and as a result of their testimony, the man was released. They did all this for a person whom they had never seen before but because he was a human being receiving treatment that was alien to the American concept of fair play and justice. And had they had not acted in his behalf, he would probably have been thrown in jail and stayed there for a term for something he had not done. These women received the Fund for the Republic award because of their perseverance and insistence on American traditional fair play. Their names are Mrs. Ann Harr and Mrs. Bessie Dick.
Time does not permit enumeration in any detail of the other awards. A third involves a courageous newspaperwoman in Lexington, Mississippi, who, despite deep-seated community opposition, attacked bootlegging in a supposedly dry state. She opposed race violence, and in her forthright editorials made her convictions clear, though she suffered a judgment of libel brought in a suit by a local officer, and was charged with contempt of court. Fortunately higher courts threw these out. She is Mrs. Hazel Brannon Smith.
It is examples such as these that keep the true spirit of American traditions alive. The people involved had little to gain by espousing unpopular causes, but it was such espousal of such causes that created our heroes at Valley Forge. And if America ever reaches the point where such kinds of courageous people with disinterested convictions failed to exist and act, the most vital essence of the American spirit in human affairs will have ceased to exist, and we will be a morally bankrupt people.
Four Congregational Christian Churches and a number of ministers and laymen have asked federal court action to prevent merger of their denomination with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The suit, filed last Thursday, asked a declaratory judgment that the basis of the union is null and void and that the idea of a merger at this time is illegal and invalid. The group filing the action contend the Congregational Church General Council does not have the power to conduct the merger. The Congregational churches are described as fully independent and the General Council is termed an advisory body with no authority over any of the churches. However, Dr. Fred Hoskins, minister or head of the Congregational General Council, has stated that the lawsuit contains nothing to prevent proceeding with uniting the General Synod this coming week in Cleveland. The proposed church will have the name of the United Church in Christ, with some 2.1 million members.
These are two of America’s oldest Protestant denominations. The Congregational Christian Churches, descended from the pilgrims who came to New England aboard the Mayflower; while the early German and Dutch immigrants established the Evangelical and Reformed Church in this country in the early 18th century.
The 171st Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren has passed a statement on war that says its members should neither participate in war nor learn the art of war. Concern is expressed over what the church terms the nation’s increasing movement toward a permanently militaristic outlook. It urges the Brethren to study international relations and foreign policy and the constructive use of atomic power for the benefit of mankind. The convention has been meeting this week in Richmond, Virginia. This church has a long record of conscientious objection to war, and its actions this week is well within its long-established tradition.
Again Richmond, the Temple of the Jewish Beth Ahabah Congregation stands only one block from the St. James Episcopal Church. Several months ago, a service was held in the synagogue for the retiring Episcopal rector. The Episcopalians were invited, and saw the Rev. Dr. Churchill Gibson presented with an inscribed Bible. Now the two congregations have gone further. They had jointly bought three of the homes separating their two buildings, and will make a parking lot. This will work out well, for Beth Ahabah worships on Saturday, and St. James congregation on Sunday.
In Munich, Germany, a Catholic priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant minister have recorded interviews for broadcast behind the Iron Curtain as a symbol of religious freedom in this country. Father Robert Welch, Rabbi Frederick Bargebuhr, and Lutheran minister George Forell are members of a unique religious education experiment at The Iowa State University. They conduct classes in their beliefs at the university’s School of Religion…. The only one of its kind in the United States.
London: Russia is starting to woo Moslem religious nationalist movements in the Arab world. A policy review in the Russian publication Kommunist urges that special attention be paid to religious sects and leaders in the Middle East.
Indianapolis: A Methodist bishop says there must be closing of what he calls a “gap of misunderstanding” between Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. Bishop Richard C. Raines, the Episcopal head of the Methodist Church in Indiana, referred to the closing of Protestant institutions in Spain last year. He said this action makes Americans, in his words, “apprehensive lest the Roman Catholic should ever become dominant in the United States.”
Waterloo, Iowa: Methodist Bishop Gerald Ensley believes the average community thinks ministers are much like Eagle Scouts – nice but not important. He told the North Iowa Conference of the Methodist Church that the community looks on ministers benevolently, but doesn’t take them seriously. This, he added, is worse than being persecuted or verbally attacked.